Pet Foods - Diet Types

There are four diet types used in the pet food industry:

  • Dry foods are usually a bagged kibble containing 3-11% water.

  • Canned foods are usually in a solid or soft-sided container with 60-78% water.

  • Semi-moist foods are usually packaged in pouches with 25-35% water.
  • Fresh Pet foods are more like canned foods in water content.

In the U.S. dog and cat foods are generally sold as complete and balanced products. Dogs and cats have complex nutritional requirements: dogs are known to require 38 nutrients daily, while cats require 40. A label indicating that a food is “complete and balanced” means that the food not only contains all of the known nutrients required by the animal but that those nutrients are in proper balance with the energy density of the food and with each other.

Unlike human nutrition where we are encouraged to eat a variety of foods because no one food contains all the nutrients we require, pet food products do contain all of the known nutrients required by cats or dogs.

There are advantages and disadvantages to the three different diet types. Pet food quality and nutritional profile is independent of diet form; however, there are owner and pet preferences for diet type.

  • Dry foods are more economical to feed than other forms of food and can remain at room temperature safely for several (1-3 hours) if not wetted.

  • Semi-moist foods are generally more palatable than dry foods but have become less popular in the last decade, hence more difficult to find.

  • Canned foods are generally more palatable than semi-moist and dry because they contain more of the nutrients that taste good: water, protein and fat.

  • Fresh Pet foods generally have the highest palatability rating but are often the most expensive feeding option. Ingredients are generally fresh, whole food items, however, vitamins and minerals are still required. The product is most often cooked and may be provided in individualized meal portions.